As Palm Sunday approaches this weekend, millions of Christians will be celebrating our Lord's ride into Jerusalem as the Savior of the world. This event marks the beginning of what is known of as "Holy Week," culminating with Easter Sunday or First Fruits the following Sunday. And while millions of people will be gathering for celebrations around the world, few may see the deeper meaning of Palm Sunday and our Lord's ride on the donkey as it relates to our lives in Christ.
When the Lord Jesus got on that donkey, His primary purpose was to fulfill a passage from Zechariah 9:9 that was written over 400 years earlier that said,
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The Prophet Zechariah had predicted that the Messiah would come into Jerusalem on a donkey to show His humility. When you sit on a donkey it is a "lowly" position to the ground and not a very glamorous way to ride since it is usual slow and plodding. Contrast that to riding on a horse that can be bolder, faster and more powerful. Many military leaders and rulers would enter a city or place on a horse to announce they had come to conquer it with their army and personal strength. Our Lord's donkey announced He came to conquer sin with His humility through the Cross. One future day our Lord's Cross would triumph over the world's sin and ambition through the peace it brought that would end human sin, strife and war itself. In Zechariah 9:10, the next verse, our Lord prophesied the goal of Palm Sunday and the Cross where we hear,
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.
So in just two verses from Zechariah 9:9-10, the Lord shows us the entire story of redemption from Palm Sunday to the Second Coming that is now drawing near. You see the reason we still need Palm Sunday this weekend is because we have NOT made any progress on human sin, pride and stubbornness. The world is still a fallen creation and needs redemption. All of our technology and accomplishments the last 2000 years cannot hide the stubborn, willful and sinful human condition. People refuse to face their sin, pride and behavior that is moving the world closer to another world war and a need for the Lord Jesus Christ to return and fulfill the words of Zechariah 9:10.
However, the missing story of Palm Sunday is the other reason why the Lord Jesus chose a donkey to ride into Jerusalem. We are that donkey. Our Lord chose to ride a donkey as a symbol of our need to be ridden, tamed and redeemed. We are the ones that are stubborn, lowly, fallen and in need of redemption. We can't move very fast, we are not that smart, we aren't that glamorous or flashy....we are donkeys! When we finally accept that we are donkeys, we understand we need redemption. IF we think we are strong, powerful and graceful like some stallion in a show we will miss our need for a Savior. When we encounter such strong-willed, stubborn people, we sometimes even call them an "ass" or a "jackass." You see Palm Sunday has even worked itself into our slang expressions for one another. The Lord will use anything to get our attention. Sometimes we even fail to see that we are the "ass," the "jackass"....the donkey in the world. We desperately need someone to make our lives useful. We need to be redeemed from ourselves and blindness to our own sin.
That is the world's problem tonight as this Palm Sunday draws near. The world thinks we can save ourselves. We can do it...yes we can! We can make "peace" treaties, we can talk our problems out, and we can work at the United Nations so everybody will agree. And even though history records a clear record of our wars, conflicts and failures, most people still cling to the stubborn, donkey-like idea that we can fix things in this world ourselves, without a Savior.
Now one of the amazing and hidden stories behind the real meaning of the donkey in the Bible is the fact that the Lord showed us that donkeys needed to be redeemed by a lamb in Exodus 13:13...or they are good for nothing else. In a single verse, the Bible gives us the story of the Gospel and God's love for the world through the donkey and its need for a lamb, a Redeemer,
Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons.
You see without redemption, all we are left with this Palm Sunday weekend is just a bunch of donkeys....a world full of "asses" and "jackasses." Is that what this entire world is about? If the world is just left with sin and the kind of behavior we see all around us, the world serves no ultimate purpose beyond this life. If life is primarily left with pain, suffering, pride, ego, stubbornness, conflict, war and death then it makes perfect sense to put the world out of its misery...break its neck, so to speak. That is what the Bible prescribes as the solution to every out-of-control donkey that is not redeemed.
The glory of Palm Sunday is that it answers the great question of life about our purpose for living. Unless we are redeemed by the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, we end up with nothing more than death...a broken neck. Palm Sunday lets us know that when Jesus unties us for a ride with Him, we find our purpose for living. Our lives must be connected or tied to Him or we have lost our real life. Serving Him, loving Him and fellowshipping with Him becomes the great joy and purpose of our lives. That is why the crowds cheered and shouted that first Palm Sunday...the Real King of this world had come. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.
To all our redeemed donkeys...Happy Palm Sunday!